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environmental battles

Judge tosses oil and gas leases in Gulf of Mexico

Citing climate change, a federal judge on Thursday invalidated recent oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras said the lease sale was invalid because an analysis by the Department of the Interior did not fully take into consideration how the leases will impact the climate. Contreras' decision cancels 1.7 million acres of leases, CNN reports.

During his first days in office, President Biden signed an executive order pausing new permits on oil and gas drilling. Thirteen states that rely heavily on the oil and gas industries filed a lawsuit, and after a judge blocked the Biden administration's order, a sale went through in November that netted almost $192 million. 

Several environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, sued over the sale, saying it was conducted under flawed assumptions. Contreras agreed, finding that the Biden administration used outdated modeling from the Trump administration when it looked at the climate-warming impact of the lease sale, CNN reports. As part of the ruling, the Interior Department must fix its environmental analysis and greenhouse gas modeling. 

The environmental organizations that sued are applauding the decision, with Earthjustice senior attorney Brettny Hardy saying in a statement that the world "simply cannot continue to make investments in the fossil fuel industry to the peril of our communities and increasingly warming planet." Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute called the ruling "disappointing" and said the group is considering its legal options.